Incentives can be a valuable tool for reinforcing the right behaviors in your staff. The key to using incentives properly is to ensure continuous positive reinforcement and random intermittent reinforcement, says former Snowfly Representative and Advisor Robert Cowen.
Rewarding appropriate behavior on an ongoing basis makes that behavior more likely to occur in the future, and the randomness of the reward further reinforces the achievement while injecting excitement into the accomplishment. Immediacy of the reward is also key. The chance to win daily and weekly rewards has a stronger impact than attendance programs that only pay out for quarterly or annual achievements.
Practical pointer: Cowen advises breaking down long-term goals into smaller components—or micro-goals—and reward them as they occur. For example, “rather than an award for a monthly perfect attendance, offer rewards for daily attendance and a bonus for five consecutive days of attendance,” Cowen explains. “Micro-goals fulfill the needs of Gen X and Y for constant feedback, as well as prevent the erosion of hope (e.g., ‘why over-exert myself if I won’t be rewarded’), which is fatal to many incentive programs.”